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Victorian families experiencing homelessness, particularly nurses, midwives and carers, will have greater access to social housing thanks to a $7 million grant commitment by the ANMF (Vic Branch) to Melbourne-based housing support agency Launch Housing.

Announced at the annual ANMF (Vic Branch) Delegates Conference in June, the grant will be spread over the next two financial years and allow Launch Housing to develop projects to support Victorians struggling to access and maintain housing.

Half of the grant will go toward Launch Housing’s Families Supportive Housing Project in Dandenong and involve the construction of 60 two to four-bedroom units to provide homes for families.

Launch Housing will also collaborate with not-for-profit organisation Wintringham to build housing in regional Victoria to ensure the ANMF (Vic Branch) is delivering both metropolitan and regional assistance.

ANMF (Vic Branch) Secretary Lisa Fitzpatrick said the branch holds a strong commitment to social justice and that the grant is the result of seeking to contribute positively to the lives of less fortunate Victorians.

The ANMF (Vic Branch) retains active leadership within the homelessness sector from members who worked for the RDNS Homeless Persons Program (HPP) (now Bolton Clarke), she added.

“We believe it is incumbent on us to make Victoria a better place,” Ms Fitzpatrick said.

“The very nature of our work means we meet patients whose lives are changed in an instant – family violence or a serious physical illness or injury or a mental health issue can lead to a series of events that can lead to homelessness. Nurses, midwives and carers are not immune to these life events.

“We also know that through relationship breakdown, family violence and workplace injury, the group of people vulnerable to homelessness significantly on the increase is women over 55 years.”

Launch Housing CEO Heather Holst described the funding boost as uplifting and commended the ANMF (Vic Branch) for their crucial support.

“We have 16,000 people a year coming to us for assistance after either new housing because they haven’t got any or they’ve got to move,” Ms Holst explained.

“Being able to build something, purpose-designed and targeted at people who are coming out of homelessness is just fantastic.”

Ms Holst said Launch Housing recently conducted a survey examining the people who use its services and found evidence of current or former nurses, midwives and carers accessing help.

As part of the projects, she said nurses, midwives and carers would be given first opportunity to acquire available housing before it is then offered to others experiencing homelessness.

Ms Holst said the complex homelessness problem deserved far greater attention and required collective action.

“It’s the Australian housing market, first and foremost,” she said of the main drivers.

“The way we work it in Australia you’ve got people who do very well out of that and people who do very badly, even to the point of being pushed into homelessness. We’ve got to somehow equalise our housing market a lot more and make it more about shelter than an investment.

“We need a better coordinated response, which we’re working on hard, and we need to have housing that is reserved for people who are homeless and not housing that they have to compete with alongside better able people.”